I said something that involved the word “love” (as in “I’d love to go there!”), but I was secretly thinking, “I’d love to go eat a bloody steak instead.”
My first experience dining at a raw food restaurant (Juliano's Raw in Santa Monica) had soured me on the genre. I was taken to the Promenade adjacent restaurant on a first date three years prior. There was no alcohol involved -- only raw food, still water and bland conversation.
When I arrived home that night, I immediately devoured two pieces of (cooked) peanut butter and jelly toast and said a firm and fond farewell to both dating sober health nuts and eating at raw food restaurants. Real men eat burgers – not faux pesto pizza.
As the date of my TA dinner approached, I was still a little apprehensive about the evening, but was somewhat comforted by the positive reviews on Yelp and the encouraging “tweets” from E*starLA about Cru’s curry quinoa dish. It also helped when I discovered that Cru has two menus – one containing raw food, and another containing cooked dishes (like the aforementioned curry).
And, if all else failed, there would at least be (BYOB) wine this time – if I chose to break my pledge to not drink alcohol until Blogger Prom.
I arrived at the restaurant last Wednesday night uncharacteristically late. With no valet in sight, and a challenging street parking situation (ie. I had to parallel park), I was more than a little frazzled (and sweaty) by the time I barreled my gangly frame through the door to the slightly cramped quarters of the one-room restaurant. I apologized profusely for my tardiness and promptly forgot about my sobriety pledge. Wine (and masochistic exercising) are the only salves for such moments of neurotic overload.
I settled into my chair and concentrated all my nervous energies on happy thoughts. Rainbows. Anthropologie. The mysterious guy at my church who provides me with excellent eye candy between “Amens.” Through the power of positive thinking, I convinced myself that everything would be fine. With good company, two bottles of wine and a menu with fully cooked items, my Cru experience would be far different from the sad sober situation at Juliano's nearly three years prior.
The evening began auspiciously with an order of the caponata bruschetta – flax seed crackers spread with cashew cheese and topped with plump raisins, succulent chunks of tomato and zucchini and shreds of fragrant basil ($9). While the combination sounded slightly like an awkward junior high school dance, the flavors and textures were surprisingly well-suited for one another. To continue the suspect dance metaphor, it was like a tango in my mouth.
I was similarly pleased with the (cooked) chickpea fritters served with a tangy yogurt sauce ($8) that I may have licked from the serving container at the encouragement of my TALFs. (Photograph of the indecent act has been withheld to preserve the integrity of my innocent Christian girl image.)
My shitake mushroom and spinach quinoa risotto served with a fig reduction ($13) was equally lickable, but I opted to use my fork to scrape my plate instead. By this juncture in the evening, I’d become a little more aware of the presence of our attentive vegan server whose name (Kyler) may be bequeathed upon one of my future spawn. The risotto was actually so favorable to my palate that I concocted my own version this past Saturday evening. (I’ve made it twice more since.)
Our evening at Cru concluded with our overly ambitious (ie. wine-infused) orders of the chocolate ganache cake, the mint pistachio chocolate ganache cake (not pictured) and the chocolate brownie with cookies and cream ice cream (all $8). While the chocolate ganache cakes were a bit dense (I almost broke my fork attempting to cut into one), I loved the chocolate brownie with the cookies and cream ice cream. Mostly because brownie + ice cream brings back memories of my “fat-er” college days, but I’m fairly certain that I wasn’t eating it just because it was there and I had consumed two glasses of wine.
When I arrived home that night (after a brief and disastrous interlude at Pazzo Gelato), I did not beeline for the toaster oven that I still don’t know how to work. I was more than satisfied with my meal at Cru. The food is legitimately good, the prices are better suited for my income than most restaurants I frequent, and the experience proved to be inspirational – in both my kitchen and in my book of potential baby names.